One of the most common wartime badges to find today is the humble silver Air Raid Precaution (ARP) badge:This badge was produced in huge quantities, by February 1938 801,000 had been delivered to local authorities! The badge was designed to allow the public to quickly see who had been trained as an ARP Warden, even whilst in civilian clothes. Sir John Anderson explained the purpose of the badge in a parliamentary answer in 1939:
The air-raid precautions badge is intended as a recognition of the obligations undertaken by persons who volunteer for local authorities’ and other air-raid precautions services and persons who take special courses of training in order to enable them to carry out their normal duties under war time conditions are not, merely by reason of their having undergone such training, eligible for the badge.
The design of the badge itself was devised by the sculptor Eric Gill and was produced by the Royal Mint. The badge came in two versions, one with a pin back for women and one with a lapel back for men, this is an example of the latter:Note the hallmarks at the bottom of the badge, this indicates it was produced in 1938. The badges were issued in coloured boxes- red for the lapel fitting and blue for the pin back version. Once they were issued many complained the badges were too big and commercial companies started producing smaller versions for private purchase. This again caused some debate in the house, Sir John Anderson:
I am aware that miniatures of the A.R.P. badge are on sale in various quarters. No official permission has been given for such reproductions of the badge, but I am advised that their manufacture or sale does not contravene the law as it at present stands. In those instances which have come to notice, steps have been taken to enlist the co-operation of the vendors with a view to ensuring as far as practicable that miniatures are supplied only to persons who can furnish evidence that they are entitled to wear the official badge. I am considering whether any further action is desirable.
In 1940 the badge switched from silver to base metal and in 1941 the badge was authorised for wear as a cap badge. Production finally ceased in 1943.
The government made a point of explaining in one of its ARP manuals that the badge alone was not a symbol of authority, and ARP wardens needed to be issued with a card from the local council to show their position to allow them to enter abandoned buildings etc. legally, the badge alone was not considered suitable proof. It is unclear if there was much misuse of these badges, but some local authorities did number the rear of the badges and keep a register of who had which badge.
In this early recruitment poster, the badge can clearly be seen: